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Skepta to curate new Festival Republic event

British grime star Skepta is curating a one-day festival in south London, promoted by Festival Republic.

The inaugural Big Smoke Festival will take place on 6 June at Crystal Palace Park and will be the only opportunity to see the Mercury Prize-winner perform in the UK in 2024.

One of the two stages at the festival will be hosted by Más Tiempo – the house music label from Skepta and acclaimed British rapper Jammer – showcasing the best live acts in dance.

Skepta and Más Tiempo recently became the first act to sell out Drumsheds – Broadwick’s new 15,000-capacity warehouse venue in north London – in advance of the show.

Discussing the new Big Smoke Festival, Skepta said: “I’m gassed to finally announce that Big Smoke Festival is official…I’m so excited, it’s been a wild one to do this. I just want to say thank you to all the supporters, it’s been a couple of years that you didn’t see me on a stage…

“I know a lot of people have been wondering when they’ll see Skepta at a festival and I really wanted to save all that energy and put it into something that was for us, by us. There’s going to be a live stage for all your favourite acts – anyone you know that’s affiliated with Skepta. There’ll be a live stage on one side and the Más Tiempo stage which will also be a full lineup. I might bust up one stage, fly over to the other one and link with Jammer. It’s gonna be crazy.”

“There’s going to be a live stage for all your favourite acts – anyone you know that’s affiliated with Skepta”

In recent years, Festival Republic has hosted a number of concerts and festivals in Crystal Palace Park, which is renowned for hosting concerts from the likes of The Rolling Stones, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd.

Last year, the Live Nation-backed promoter organised Dog Day Afternoon with Iggy Pop, Blondie and Generation Sex, Community Festival with Two Door Cinema Club, The Wombats and The Vaccines, and a concert with The Lumineers.

In 2021, the promoter took Wireless, its flagship festival for rap and hip-hop, to the south London park for one year only.

That year, Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn told IQ that he had entered a “long-term arrangement with the park and the trust and I’m committed to Crystal Palace now”.

In other news, Live Nation last month signed a legally binding agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to improve accessibility at Festival Republic’s events.

Under the Equality Act 2010 in the UK, Live Nation is legally required to make reasonable adjustments for disabled attendees across its festival portfolio, which includes Wireless, Download, Latitude, Wilderness, and Reading and Leeds Festival.


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Travis Scott, Skepta to headline Mirror Mirror festival

Travis Scott and Skepta are set to headline a new festival called Mirror Mirror, honouring the late fashion designer Virgil Abloh.

Organised by his creative company Virgil Abloh Securities, the one-day event is slated to take place on 3 December at the FPL Solar Amphitheater at Bayfront Park – the largest outdoor concert venue in Miami, Florida.

Yves Tumor, Pedro, Venus X, Bambii, Rampa, Acyde, and Benji B are also set to perform at the ticketed event, with net profits supporting the Virgil Abloh Foundation.

“Virgil had the ability to bring everyone together to create magic,” says Shannon Abloh, the designer and musician’s wife and Virgil Abloh Securities CEO and managing director.

“With his close collaborators, we wanted to bring everyone together to celebrate Virgil”

“With his close collaborators, we wanted to bring everyone together to celebrate Virgil–his legacy, his passion, and his care for others. He believed his real work was championing others and we will continue his work supporting youth in the arts with the launch of the Virgil Abloh Foundation in 2023.”

Perhaps best known as Louis Vuitton’s artistic director of menswear, Abloh also directed music videos and designed album covers including Westside Gunn’s Pray for Paris, Lil Uzi Vert’s Luv Is Rage 2 and Pop Smoke’s posthumous LP Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon.

Frank Ocean, Tyler, the Creator, and other artists paid tribute to the designer after learning of his death. Abloh died in November 2021 after privately living with cancer for years.


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Olympia London boosts live offering

The 10,000-capacity Olympia London is widening its live music programming, with upcoming performances from Korean-American rapper Jay Park and UK grime artist Skepta.

The historic event space, which first opened its doors in 1886, attracts more than 1.6 million visitors annually.

Investors including Deutsche Finance International and Yoo Capital purchased Olympia in 2017 for €330 million, following reports that the Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) was eyeing up the London venue. MSG unveiled plans for a new future-facing London arena, MSG Sphere, in February.

After a short hiatus, live music programming is again becoming a focus for the venue.

“Olympia London is perfectly placed to host music concerts within our existing calendar of events,” says venue director Gillian Kiamil. “We are fortunate to not only have the flexibility, but also the capacity to welcome up to 10,000 people standing at any single gig.”

“Olympia London is perfectly placed to host music concerts within our existing calendar of events”

Hatsune Miku, a Japanese singing synthesiser taking the holographic form of a blued-haired, 16-year-old girl, played at Olympia in December, followed by former Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft in May.

Korean-American hip hop artist Jay Park is performing at the venue as part of his Sexy4eva tour on October 20, before an SJM-promoted Skepta show on November 29.

According to the venue director, concerts are “operationally very different” to other Olympia events, which include trade conference Blockchain Live and the London Dentistry Show. However, adds Kiamil, “the satisfaction we get from seeing fans really enjoying themselves while watching their icons perform live at Olympia London is priceless.”

Over the years, the venue has played host to the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Status Quo, Rod Stewart, the Cure, the Animals and Pink Floyd.

More recent concerts to take place in the venue include the Chemical Brothers in 2008, Bloc Party in 2009 and Primal Scream in 2010.

Tickets for Jay Park and Skepta’s Olympia London shows are priced at £44 and £41.25 respectively.


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Trailblazers: Chris Jammer and Louise Young, S&C

Welcome to the latest edition of Trailblazers – IQ’s regular series of Q&As with the inspirational figures forging their own paths in the global concert business.

From people working in challenging conditions or markets to those simply bringing a fresh perspective to the music world, Trailblazers aims to spotlight unique individuals from all walks of life who are making a mark in one of the world’s most competitive industries. (Read the last Trailblazer interview, with Kingdom Collective’s Nick Griffiths, here.)

This week, Trailblazers holds its second joint interview, with Chris Jammer and Louise Young of Cambridge-based, independent music festival Strawberries and Creem.

Founded by a team of five friends in 2014, Strawberries and Creem started out as an 800-capacity summer garden party. Now in its fifth year, the event has grown to accommodate 15,000 festivalgoers annually to its home on the outskirts of Cambridge, UK.

The festival has welcomed the likes of Skepta, Nelly, Wiley, Octavian, T-Pain, Shaggy and Shy FX over the years. Recognised for its high levels of diversity, Strawberries and Creem received a highly commended accolade for inclusivity in Festicket’s 2018 awards.

Strawberries and Creem returns this year on Saturday 15 June for its largest event to date, with performances from Stefflon Don, Ms Dynamite and Sean Kingston, among others.

IQ talks to festival co-founder Jammer and head of operations Young about Strawberry and Creem’s journey from a “party in a field” to a legitimate music festival, future ambitions and the satisfaction of putting on a successful event.


How did you get your starts in the industry?
Jammer: I stumbled across the industry if I’m perfectly honest. I was studying land economy at university with the intention of working in finance. My first real experience in the industry came as a club promoter for local club nights in Cambridge.

This is where I met [fellow co-founders] Will, Frazer, Sam and Preye. As a group of mates we were just putting on events for the fun of it and not really following any rule book. We just did what we saw fit and wanted to do at the time.

Young: Chris stole my line! I was working in finance when I was looking for something that would be more creative and more active. I’ve always been very organised and a bit of a control freak, so when the boys had the idea to start the festival they needed someone to bring it all together and I was in the perfect position to do so.

Can you tell me about your current roles?
Jammer: My current role is head of brand and business development. I assist on the partnership deals we do too. There is a lot of crossover within the business as you would expect with a small team.

My main focuses are developing the brand and working out new revenue streams to keep us moving forward into new spaces. We don’t just want to be a music festival. Strawberries & Creem and [fellow Cambridge-based festival] The Cambridge Club are bigger than that. I have input on both the site content side of things, along with what we put out on social media and our marketing as well.

Young: I do all things operations and event management. Day to day, I’ll be doing anything finance-related to security planning to artist liaison. It’s extremely varied and as Chris says there is a lot of crossover, we all support each other to make sure that we achieve what we set out to achieve. Although I’m not sure you’d catch the boys in a police intelligence meeting or talking about the medical provisions – that fortunately is where we all play to our strengths!

“We’d love to get to the point where we have such a strong brand that people will buy a ticket to the festival just because they want to be there, not only based on the line-up”

Who, or what, have been the biggest influences on your career so far?
Jammer: The likes of P Diddy and Dr Dre who have built empires out of doing something they love have really influenced me and my career. I love that they both didn’t stop with making music and have branched out into different industries, and I want our brands to be able to do that in the future too.

Young: For me, it’s generally other festivals and events. We’d love to get to the point where we have such a strong brand that people will buy a ticket to the festival just because they want to be there and they trust our reputation thanks to past experiences, not only based on the line-up.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Jammer: For me the most rewarding aspect of this job is the clean up and debrief week after the festival – knowing what we have just pulled off. Working all year primarily for one event is often scary and there is a lot of pressure on having a successful day. That feeling of knowing you have achieved what you set out to do 12 months prior is priceless.

Young: I don’t often get much spare time in the months surrounding the festivals, they become quite a blur. But I do try and stand at the back of the stage for a few songs and just watch people’s faces in the crowd. The joy on everyone’s faces is just amazing and reminds me of the whole reason why we do the festivals – to create that feeling, that happiness for all of our crowd.

And the most challenging?
Jammer: The November/December period is always hard for me as it’s so far away from the next festival and the buzz of summer has worn off. It’s really hard to keep motivated at that time of year for me personally. Hopefully this will change his year as we branch out a bit more and have other projects to work on!

Young: It’s the responsibility. We strive to get as many people to the festival as possible, we’ve grown massively year on year but with that comes the increased responsibility and stress. My job is to make sure everyone has an amazing but also a safe time. You hear some horror stories about festivals but I strive each year to make sure I put everything in place so nothing like that happens in our field.

“I don’t like that artists or events are sometimes put in a box, pigeonholed into certain genres and vibes”

What achievements would you say you were most proud of?
Jammer: I think I’m most proud of being in a position as a company to have a number full time employees. In the early years when myself and Lou were working full time on this we couldn’t afford to pay ourselves enough to live comfortably. Being able to support two more members of full time staff now is a great feeling to have.

Young: I’d definitely agree with Chris, we have grown from a party in a field to an official company, which now means people can earn a living doing what they love doing. I’m also extremely proud of the fact we have all remained the best of friends. It’s extremely challenging and stressful at times, and a few choice words are often exchanged, but we all just get on so well and still love each other at the end of the day!

What, if anything, do you think the music industry could do better?
Jammer: I’d love to see a real push for more diversity across the board and more of a blurring of the lines. I don’t like that artists or events are sometimes put in a box, pigeonholed into certain genres and vibes.

Previously we’ve been labelled a ‘grime’ or an ‘urban’ festival because we’ve had grime MCs at the top of the bill. But we celebrate a wide range of genres from D&B to house to dancehall. Often artists or events are labelled incorrectly which I don’t think is necessary – just enjoy the music for what it is!

Young: Something that we’ve tried to do this year, get more female artists on the line-up. There is still a massive divide between female and male artists, and across other industries too. I’ve also found that lots of the key roles within festival management are male-led, but I always try and work with female contractors where possible and encourage more to get into the industry.

What advice would you give to someone hoping to make it in live music/entertainment?
Jammer: Be brave and be bold. I think we have been very ambitious in what we have set out to do. It has of course been important to think carefully about what we are doing and not to be too bullish without planning, but dreaming big has certainly helped to get us to where we are today.

Young: Know what your goal is and stick to it. There is so much competition and people will often try and lead you down certain paths but stay true to who you are and focus on what you want to achieve.


If you’d like to take part in a future Trailblazers interview, or nominate someone else for inclusion, email IQ’s news editor, Jon Chapple, on [email protected], or Anna Grace on [email protected].

Half of UK population say form 696 is discriminatory

Controversial risk-assessment document form 696 has been thrust into the spotlight once more after a survey revealed almost half the British general public thinks the form is discriminatory against those forced to complete it.

New data released today by Ticketmaster shows 48% of those polled – a “nationally representative” sample of the British population – think the form is discriminatory because it only applies to certain events. Culture minister Matt Hancock and the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, are among those to have called for a review of form 696, which is used by London’s Metropolitan police to determine the potential level of risk involved in events where a DJ or MC is using a backing track.

Critics accuse the form – which asks for a description of the style of music and target audience, and is a requirement for promoters and licensees of events to complete 14 days before the event – of being anti-grime and urban music, as it as it disproportionally affects promoters of those shows.

The findings form part of Ticketmaster’s State of Play: Grime report, which follows similar investigations by the ticketing company into other sectors of the live industry, including theatre, comedy and dance music. The study, produced by Ticketmaster’s LiveAnalytics division in partnership with Disrupt and the University of Westminster’s black music research unit, is described as the “first comprehensive and academic study into public attitudes to grime and its political impact”.

Other findings of the report include:

Ticketmaster UK manager director Andrew Parsons comments: “This year’s State of Play report was especially exciting for us, as here at Ticketmaster we have witnessed firsthand the extraordinary rise of grime music from the increase in ticket sales for grime events. We partnered with Disrupt Creative and University of Westminster and set out to create the first set of granular data around grime and quantify its incredible popularity and influence in culture.”

“Grime is one of the great music genres to come out of London, and with international talent like Skepta as well as rising stars like Nadia Rose bringing grime to the world stage, it is little wonder this grassroots music movement is now becoming a huge part of mainstream culture,” adds London’s night czar, Amy Lamé. “At city hall, we are doing everything we can to safeguard grassroots music, showing the world that London is open to talent and creativity.

“As well as setting out measures to promote busking and protect grassroots music venues, we’ve made it clear that form 696 shouldn’t compromise the capital’s vibrant music industry or unfairly target one community or music genre. That is why we are working with the Met and London’s promoters, venues and artists to make sure London’s legendary music scene is the best and safest in the world.”


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Festival Focus: Afropunk, Latitude, Chase Park

Grace Jones has been announced as the new headliner for the first Afropunk Fest London following the festival’s decision to drop MIA for criticising the Black Lives Matter protest movement.

The festival – the inaugural London edition of an event held in Brooklyn since 2005 and Paris since 2015 – said yesterday that “after discussing the situation with the artist and the community, a decision was agreed upon by all involved that MIA will no longer headline Afropunk London”.

In an interview with the Evening Standard in April, MIA (Mathangi Arulpragasam to her mum) called for Black Lives Matter supporters Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to highlight issues facing Syrians as well as black Americans.

Jamaican singer and actress Jones is also playing at Goldenvoice’s FYF Fest in Los Angeles in August.

Joey Purp, acityinthemidwest

Skepta will miss his second US festival of 2016 after once again failing to secure an American visa.

Chicago rapper Joey Purp will take the British grime artist’s place on the Perry’s stage at Lollapalooza next weekend.

Skepta, who has yet to comment, was forced to miss Coachella in April after he was denied entry to the US. (Joey Purp photo by acityinthemidwest.)

Ed Sheeran made a surprise appearance at Latitude for the second year running, joining Northern Irish singer-songwriter Foy Vance – signed to Sheeran’s Gingerbread Man label – on Sunday 17 June.

Sheeran played a full had a full 75-minute surprise show at the Festival Republic event’s Sunrise Arena in 2015.

Latitude 2016 was headlined by Maccabees, The National and Joy Division alumni New Order, who closed the festival with signature song ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’.


Katie Bermudez and Alex Haynes, the two people who lost their lives at Sunset Music Festival (SMF) in Tampa in May, overdosed on MDMA, it has been confirmed.

Following a postmortem examination, the Hillsborough Medical Examiner ruled the two deaths to be the result of “ecstasy abuse”. A spokesman for Tampa’s St Joseph’s Hospital said at the time the number of admissions of those suffering from adverse effects of drugs at the EDM event was “frightening”.

Jon McClure, Reverend and The Makers, Christophe Losberger

Reverend and the Makers will headline the sixth Chase Park Festival on 6 August. Billed as “Britain’s most inclusive festival”, Chase Park was founded by disabled student Paul Belk and is held in an accessible venue, Chase Park Neuro Centre, in Newcastle in the north-east of England.

Stornoway, Ben Ottewell, The Cornshed SistersBarry Hyde, SoShe, Jake Houlsby, The Sound Beams and Mirrors are also confirmed.

Belk describes the line-up as “our strongest yet”, with a “real mix of established and emerging bands different styles of music”.

The festival was the first outdoor event to be awarded silver status by accessibility charity Attitude is Everything, which earlier this month revealed that the number of deaf and disabled fans attending live music events increased by over a quarter last year(Jon McClure/Reverend and The Makers photo by Christophe Losberger/www.daily-rock.com.)


Nero, Ultra 2016, maxxcinema

And New Zealand’s Rhythm and Vines festival has declared it is to do away with bring-your-own (BYO) alcohol for this year on the advice of police and the local council.

The Gisborne festival, now in its 14th year, was  in 2014 was the site of a riot that left 83 injured, although police made just four arrests last year, despite “high levels of drunkenness”.

A line-up announcement is expected next month. Last year’s event was headlined Mac Miller, Nero and Angus and Julia Stone. (Nero photo by maxxcinema on Instagram.)


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